Universal Studios’ latest Dr. Seuss screen adaptation The Lorax was released on Friday March 2 to commemorate what would be the deceased Seuss’ 108th birthday. Seuss, an internationally renowned American cartoonist, is remembered best for his vibrant and iridescent characters and Martian landscapes which have proven timeless. Despite his young readership, Seuss’ works are anything but childish and often sport mature and unexpected themes on everything from the dangers of materialism (How the Grinch Stole Christmas) to anti-authoritarianism and Hitler (Horton Hears a Who). With a multimillion dollar niche for intelligent animated children’s films in full swing, it’s surprising that in 2012 Lorax is only the second fully computer animated Seuss adaptation.
Lorax takes place mostly in the playfully dystopian city of Thneed-Ville where trees are electronic spectacles powered by 96 batteries. Ted (Zac Efron) is an inquisitive 12-year-old who desperately wants the affection of Audrey (Taylor Swift), and to do so tries to get his hands on the last Truffula tree (picture a delicious palm tree that is made out of cotton candy). To do so he has to visit the fabled Once-ler (Ed Helms), who warns Ted of abusing nature and the forest’s goofy guardian the Lorax (Danny DeVito).
Although Lorax is every environmentalist’s worst nightmare, the cutesy cacotopian Thneed-Ville’s would certainly make George Orwell giggle. The visuals are stunning and being the first Seuss adaptation in 3D,Lorax shows a how 21st century sensibility could enhance Seuss’ psychedelic imagery. The real problem with Loraxis that the film follows too close to Seuss’ story book plot and the impact of archetypal characters like the Once-ler and the Lorax are too predictable and tame. Seuss himself said that he liked to be “subversive as hell” because “kids can see a moral coming a mile off”. Even with a big name cast and luscious visuals, Loraxfails to really titillate because of it’s subpar musical score and lazy approach to Seuss’ subversively simple innovation.